Four men and 11 juveniles are under arrest in connection with a car theft ring that took nearly four dozen vehicles, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation lasted several months in the south area of the county and the suspects were targeting residences and businesses along Bloomingdale Avenue.
Here are the suspects:
-- Michael Edward Morton, 33, of Tampa, is charged with grand theft motor vehicle (x2), grand theft third degree (x2), dealing in stolen property, false information on secondary metals recycling form.
-- Mark Joseph Denney, 33, of Riverview, is charged with grand theft motor vehicle (x3), burglary of an unoccupied conveyance.
-- Guy William White, 46, of Riverview, is charged with grand theft motor vehicle (x3), burglary of an unoccupied conveyance (x3), grand theft third degree, grand theft second degree, petit theft
-- David Leroy Edwards, 19, of Riverview, is charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle.
Eleven suspects under the age of 18 also are under arrest on charges that include grand theft of a motor vehicle, petit theft, felon in possession of a firearm, resisting an officer without violence, armed burglary of a dwelling.
Most of the vehicle thefts occurred during nighttime residential burglary sprees, referred to as "car hopping" where the suspects checked to see if the vehicles were locked, according to the sheriff’s office. The juveniles stole a range of items and, if the keys were in the vehicle, the vehicle itself.
Here is a statistical breakdown of the investigation:
All 46 of the vehicles stolen were left unlocked by the victims.
Of the 46 vehicles unlocked, 42 had the keys left inside. In the four cases the vehicle didn't have the keys inside, the keys were located within another vehicle in the driveway.
Deputies have made 14 arrests on auto-theft-related offenses.
The average age of the suspects is approximately 15 to 20 years of age, with the majority of the suspects being juveniles. These arrests have resulted in over 50 total felony charges.
Four firearms were stolen after being left in the vehicles by the victims. All of those firearms were recovered by deputies when contact was made with the suspects.